By Vivek Thiagarajan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East
On Saturday, the Turkish military claimed that it inflicted “significant loses” on the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). (CNN) The military claimed to have killed 50-60 Turkish rebels inside Iraq. The Turkish military did not state whether it had used the American intelligence that President Bush had promised. However, an unnamed PKK military official has claimed that no attack occurred.
Since early fall Turkey has threatened to attack the PKK in Iraq, which is a Kurdish militia seeking to gain independence from the Turkey. In the past few months, the PKK increased its attacks on the Turkish military. The constant attacks caused the Turkish government to act in order to respond to the building pressure by its public demanding justice for the troops that were killed.
Turkey immediately mobilized its troops to the Iraqi border, because it believed that the PKK rebels had attacked in Turkey and then fled to a base in northern Iraq. However, the Turkish government showed reluctance to attack and physically invade Iraq. Although, the military received immediate support from the parliament to launch an attack Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gul were hesitant to attack.
Their hesitancy was both justified and wise because launching an invasion into Iraq could both destabilize the region and Turkey. The Iraqi region has been destabilized since the downfall of Saddam Hussein. However, the northern region under the control of the Kurds and President Barzani has remained stable, because of their embrace of the Americans. However, Turkey has chosen not to recognize Barzani as the official voice of the Kurdish people. This is probably because the Turks fear that if Barzani is recognized as the official voice for the Kurds, then it may encourage the PKK to continue their struggle so that they may ultimately be recognized as the spokesmen for the 15 million Kurds in Turkey. Additionally, the Turks have been hesitant to enter Iraq to pursue the PKK, because they understand that with the transient nature of the PKK. It is possible that killing the current PKK members may only increase the militia’s enrollment by angering more Kurds within Turkey and encouraging them to join the cause.
These limited attacks will only be successful for the Turkish government, as long as it does not lead to a full scale invasion.
For more information, please see:
Al-Jazeera- Turkey ‘right to intervene in Iraq’- 2 December 2007
BBC News- Turkish army fires on PKK in Iraq- 1 December 2007
CNN (AP)- Turkey attacks Kurd rebels in Iraq- 1 December 2007
Gulf News- Kurdish officials deny Turkish incursion into Iraq- 2 December 2007
Impunity Watch- Tension Mounts between Turkey and Iran against Kurdish militia in Iraq- 28 October 2007
Impunity Watch-Turkey: Military may pursue PKK into Iraq- 11 October 2007